Oct 16, 3018

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May 11, 2019

Pileated Woodpecker

A Pileated Woodpecker going to town on a tree across the street from my apartment. Click the picture for lots more images. Shot using the AT-65Q telescope, which could probably benefit from a longer sunshade when shooting the dark underside of a tree against a bright sky (see last picture in collection).

Apr 13, 2019

Cooper's Hawk

An immature Cooper's Hawk in my back yard, from November 2017. Picture taken through fairly dirty glass. When I carefully opened the slider to the deck, the bird of course flew away. Click the picture to see one more view, with his head turned.

Jan 21, 2019

Super Blood Wolf Moon!


Last night's eclipse was stunningly beautiful, the moon ablaze with brilliant color in the final minutes before totality. It didn't look like we would even get to see this eclipse: a big winter storm had rolled in the night before, and it was still snowing the afternoon of the event. But the storm moved on, and by 11:30 the moon was way up high in a crystal clear sky. Clear, and cold—0°F and windy. I had to stop taking photos at some point because I could no longer operate the camera with my frozen fingers...but I got the frames I needed to make this picture in the first few minutes of shooting.

Usually, the moon's brightness drowns out the stars around it, but during an eclipse the moon becomes a lot fainter (illuminated only by deep sunset light sneaking around the edge of the earth), making it possible to see our nearest neighbor in space as a great sphere floating in a sea of stars.

The photo above is a composite of four short (1 & 2 sec.) exposures of the moon, stacked and sharpened, plus a 10-second exposure to bring out the stars, all taken 13 minutes after the start of the hour-long totality. (And 13 minutes after a meteoroid slammed into the southwestern edge of the moon: see here and here and here.) The photos were taken with a Nikon D5300 camera and AstroTech AT-65Q telescope working as a 420mm telephoto lens. Processing via Affinity Photo, Paint Shop Pro 6, FastStone Image Viewer, and RegiStax (wavelets sharpening).

This was the last total lunar eclipse visible here in Massachusetts for a while; the next one will be on May 16, 2022.

Oct 18, 2018

Young Mergansers

Common Mergansers in the Mill River behind my apartment. The white streaks connecting their eyes to their bills mark them as youngsters, hatched earlier this year. Male mergansers look like females when young and develop their distinctive dark green head and stark black & white body in their second year—but these two look different enough that I wonder if they aren't brother and sister.

Photos taken with a new (to me) Astro-Tech AT65Q telescope, working as a 420mm f/6.5 telephoto lens. Noticeably sharper than my 400mm f/5.6 ED Nikkor, even when that lens is stopped down to its optimum f/11 aperture.

Sep 21, 2018

Chalk Art 2018

Artists at work in the 9th annual Chalk Art Festival in Northampton, MA, on Sept. 14, 2018. Three inches of rain the following week washed away most of the chalk, but the art still lives in photos here.

Jun 17, 2018

Professor Longhair

Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, cemented his reputation as a piano legend of New Orleans with one song he first recorded in 1949, "Go to the Mardi Gras," which is replayed every year in the city when Mardi Gras time rolls around. You can give a listen here:  youtube.com/watch?v=0wAMr3V5lN4

'Fess had a few more hits in the 1960s—notably, "Big Chief" and "Tipitina"—but he fell into obscurity as the 60s progressed. In 1970 some blues aficionados found him working as a janitor in a record shop, nursed him back to health, and got him into a recording studio. His performance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 1971 was wildly received and marked the second coming of his career. In the years that followed he played Newport, Montreux, toured Europe, played a concert hosted by Paul McCartney aboard the Queen Mary, and was hailed as a great guru mentor by Dr. John, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Huey Smith and others. In 1979 he recorded tracks for a lively & brilliant new album, Crawfish Fiesta, but sadly, he passed away in January 1980, shortly before the album was released.

In the spring of 1975, Fess played a concert on the blacktop out back of my high school in New Orleans—Ben Franklin Senior High, which was then located uptown, in the old Carrollton Courthouse, down by the river near the intersection of S. Carrollton and St. Charles Avenues. I was one of the yearbook photographers and shot a couple rolls of film of the event, but the pictures were too late to make it into the yearbook and got filed away, unused.

Recently, seeing news items about the Professor (2018 being the 100th anniversary of his birth), I remembered the pictures and found the proof sheets—rolls 57 & 58—and negatives which had been waiting patiently in glassine envelopes for 43 years. Carefully digitized, the negatives have very satisfying sharpness and tonal detail, and with the images on the computer I was able to Do Them Up in ways I could only dream of back in darkroom days. Click the picture above to see the results. (And proofs of the full collection of photos from the event can be seen here: photos.app.goo.gl/4XA9vZYSLLM8sS6J8)

I scoured the web trying to identify the band members. The drummer is Edward "Sheba" Kimbrough, the guitarist is "Big Will" Harvey, and I believe the bass player is his son, Will Harvey, Jr.

New Orleans in the 1970s...a happenin' place to grow up. The band at the senior prom the year before was the Meters!

Further reading, etc.

New Yorker article, "The Still-Burning Genius of Professor Longhair":

Fess talking about learning piano, and playing "Tipitina":

"Big Chief," from Montreux Jazz Fest 1973 (w. the Meters)
A rough recording, but an outrageous performance!!

Brief interview from 1969:


Fess with the Meters on PBS Soundstage, 1974:
Walk Right In   youtube.com/watch?v=ET_ZoFpsutA
Whole Lotta Lovin'   youtube.com/watch?v=CK0sI5WcORI
Everyday I Have the Blues  youtube.com/watch?v=zOcncAwlyT4
Tipitina   youtube.com/watch?v=Yj6AXu7_psY
Big Chief   youtube.com/watch?v=I09FChrTDJw

More with the Meters:
Hey Little Girl   youtube.com/watch?v=7yYJPqKlEFo
Bald Head   youtube.com/watch?v=HZNxSOQtQp8

A track with same band as in photos (plus harmonica):
Mojo Working   youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_xuBm7nRs

Rock 'n' Roll Gumbo CD
Crawfish Fiesta CD
'Fess Up DVD

Tech notes: The original pictures were taken using Nikon FTn and Canon FTb cameras with 50 and 200mm lenses, shot on Kodak Plus-X film which was push-processed to EI 200. The negatives were digitized by photographing them with a DSLR camera equipped with a macro lens.